Patriots

Patriots' 43-40 win over Chiefs lives up to the billing

Patriots' 43-40 win over Chiefs lives up to the billing

FOXBORO – It was 11:28 p.m., just after Stephen Gostkowski’s 28-yarder at the buzzer ended a Sunday Night Football game you won’t forget.

As I walked from the media elevator to the field I thumbed out a tweet I suspected might get some pushback.

“That was a great, great game.”

That conclusion should have been self-evident. But launching a tweet like that into the vortex of snark and negativity that swirls on Twitter during Patriots games is asking for a mass debunking.

The “yeah, buts . . . ” and laments about which guy sucks, what play call was stupid and how this team won’t be winning Super Bowls playing like that usually come raining down.

But this time, the bitchers, moaners and punch-bowl turds were vastly outnumbered by people realizing just what they watched.

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Two teams putting up almost 1,000 yards of offense (500 for the Pats, 465 for the Chiefs)

The greatest quarterback of all time dueling the most exciting young quarterback in the NFL.

A franchise in the autumn of its years at the top, rolling up its sleeves at crunch time and using a whole lot of Dad strength to subdue the latest wannabe.

“Wannabe” isn’t meant to demean the Chiefs. Every team in the league that’s not based on Route 1 in Foxboro wants to be what the Patriots have been for two decades, not just another notch on the belt of Brady and Belichick.

It used to be the same here. We’d get giddy talk about the 1994 opener when Drew Bledsoe and Dan Marino dueled and the Patriots lost 38-34, the same way people in Kansas City are going to talk about this one.

But we’re a little jaded now. We’ve got a catalog of indelible games to thumb through now. So many that, when these games end we’re like jewelers inspecting diamonds searching for flaws in something that was really, really exquisite.

The journey to 43-40 was as entertaining and jammed with intrigue as any other regular-season game in recent memory.

It was 27-26 entering the last quarter, the Chiefs having erased a 24-9 halftime lead with a 67-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Kareem Hunt after Bill Belichick warned his team all week long about guarding against big plays. And there was a strip-sack of Brady in there too when the quarterback went on walkabout and got hammered to set up a touchdown pass to the uncoverable Tyreek Hill.

That was the prelude to a 30-point fourth in which the Chiefs got a 97-yard kickoff return setting up a go-ahead touchdown, Brady ran one in from four yards out on third-and-goal, Gostkowski drilled a 50-yarder after a 42-yard hookup between Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Mahomes hit Hill for a 75-yard touchdown that tied it and then Brady hit Gronk for 39 yards to set up the game-winner.

After a week debating the merits of Gronk compared to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Gronk got the last word. And so did Brady after we spent more than a week marveling at the arm and composure of Mahomes.

In a lot of ways, this was the rare game that we all forecasted pretty accurately.

Not all the dirty details, but the fact that both teams would go up and down the field on each other.

That the Patriots might hatch a couple of things to confuse Mahomes (both of his picks were costly and caused by savvy defense) but that his arm strength and the speed of his receivers made him a threat no matter where he was on the field.

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That Kansas City might get alternately picked on and bullied on the ground and spread thin and picked apart through the air.

But we also learned that Mahomes has it in him to rebound on the road against a dynasty. Yeah, he’s just another notch on the Patriots belt this morning, another under-25 quarterback that lost to the Patriots at Gillette, but he’s the wind beneath the Chiefs wings now. And that’s why the losing locker room didn’t sound like a losing locker room.

The Patriots didn’t play badly and lose badly as they did the last two times the Chiefs saw them in the regular season. The Patriots, overall, played really well and still the Chiefs almost got them.

“I feel like if we had the ball last like they did we would have gone down and scored and won, too,” said Hunt. “We can take this loss. I mean, you never want to lose. We’re going to learn from this, go study and make sure it don’t happen again.”

The Chiefs can “take this loss” as Hunt said because they feel pretty good that this won’t be the only time they see the Patriots this year.

“When you score 40 points and you lose you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror,” said corner Orlando Scandrick. “This team has got great character. It’s one of the best group of guys I’ve been around in my whole 11-year career. We’ll be fine, I am not worried about it at all. The way this team works, the way this team prepares. If we handle our business the way we’re supposed to handle our business there is a good chance we will see them again.”

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Will Patriots re-sign Devin McCourty? Retirement 'not an option' for DB

Will Patriots re-sign Devin McCourty? Retirement 'not an option' for DB

Devin McCourty plans to come back for an 11th NFL season, regardless of whether it's with the New England Patriots.

McCourty's agent, Andy Simms of Young Money APAA Sports, told ESPN's Mike Reiss that the 32-year-old safety "wants to play" and that "retirement is not an option" for his client.

McCourty has spent his entire NFL career with the Patriots and is one of the most well-respected members of the organization. His five-year, $47.5 million contract ends in March, though, so New England will have to broker a deal with him in free agency.

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That may be easier said than done considering the Patriots have a host of players entering free agency in 2020, most notably fellow captain Matthew Slater, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy and, of course, quarterback Tom Brady.

The Patriots likely will have to give Brady a raise from his $21.5 million cap hit in 2019, which would leave less money for a player like McCourty, who is due for his own raise after continuing to play at a high level on a team-friendly deal.

If New England wants to maintain leadership and stability on defense, though, it may be willing to pay up for McCourty. We'll find out when free agency begins March 18.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

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The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.